What makes a good love story?

My head hurts.

I’ve had a beer or two.

It’s late.

I had just sat down to eek out some words earlier when I got a message from a friend, asking if my partner and I were coming to a celebration tonight. Since we’d just sat down to dinner, the logical answer at the time was ‘no’. However, it was a celebration to see a friend who had hopped an ocean to come visit. We were upset that we hadn’t been notified sooner, but I wasn’t going to let that stop our fun. My partner was a little less agreeable. We still enjoyed ourselves immensely and got to spend time with some people we hadn’t seen in a long while – catch up, laugh, and enjoy some good beer and good company. The only trouble is that now I have to write.

What do I write about?

The idea flitting around my head right now is, “What makes a good love story?”

One of the blogs I’m following has been making several posts lately about “What do you look for in…” a number of different characters, environments, and scenarios. I really enjoy these posts because they really get me thinking. Often I get an idea and decide it sounds good to me, then just run with it. I don’t often stop to think about what elements really make a something good. This should be remedied.

Perhaps due to the mood of the evening or perhaps due to the point I’m at in my current story, the topic currently at the top of my mind is love stories. An oft over-used tale is the one of fate. Two star-crossed lovers who, love or hate one another upon first meeting, are destined to wind up together by the end. I’ve gone this direction in the past, but now I question the romance that actually goes into it. Isn’t it more special if, out of anyone in the world, you choose someone?

There are lots of tropes out there for romance – childhood friends that meet again as adults, some guy defeating the “friend-zone” by virtue of always being around.. particularly after being contrast with a complete jerk, etc. I’m sure you can think of a few. It’s really hard to come up with something that’s truly unique. However, even if your story houses a romance about a low-born governess who falls for her wealthy employer, there are ways to make your story stand out from the rest. I often think this comes from the depth of the characters (and the environment they’re in) themselves. If you write truly engaging and complex characters in an environment that hasn’t been done over a thousand times, your story will stand out – in my opinion. They devil’s in the details, is it not?

A convincing romance for me has a good hook, in which the writer actually reminds you of those blushing moments from your own experience. It also has a conflict that must be overcome, forcing the characters to grow as a couple, as well as individuals. Furthermore, both characters must be believably interested in one another. I don’t often buy into the stories where one character gives up all their vices, without looking back, because he or she has fallen for someone “pure”. I like characters who have vices.

What do you think makes a good love story?

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4 Comments

Filed under Writing

4 responses to “What makes a good love story?

  1. “A convincing romance for me has a good hook, in which the writer actually reminds you of those blushing moments from your own experience.” So true, but never really thought of that before you said. I don’t read romance that often as a genre but in reality all books usually have romance as one of the important elements.

    • Indeed. I was part of a Romance-genre reading club last year and was very surprised to find out how little actual “romance” was involved in many of the storylines. Other books were quite good and the romantic portion of the novel took a backseat to the main plot. It sparked an interesting discussion on what truly defined the genre.
      I’m not sure it’s a genre I’d read again or write in, but it was certainly and interesting experience!

  2. I think if you follow that formula – girl meets boy early on in story, it’s pretty easy to think they will get together, and probably get bored (I know I would). I think your right, the devil IS in the detail and in the conflict that happens. Unpredictability makes the story more realistic (in my opinion, anyway), you need to get that emotional connection to leave your reader hooked to need to find out if the conflict is resolved. I think also that to leave it as a happy ever after is an annoying type of ending, because well, it’s not realistic. 🙂

    • Ha! This is all very true. At some point, I began picturing all of the ‘Happily Ever After’ cases as having wound up at the court house five years later, filing for divorce, because they found out marriage wasn’t easy.
      I really like what you say about getting the reader hooked. Emotional connection can be very difficult but so absolutely essential!

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